Are you prepared for a large exhibit?
Updated: Jan 3
When you have a large exhibit to prepare for, aside from actually getting the paintings done, planning is the most important part. I'll explain how I am doing this for my exhibit at the Misericordia Hospital which starts on Friday, January 6, 2023.
Measure your space carefully
For the Misericordia, I know that it is a long hallway (admitting) and I was told that it can hold around 60 paintings. I wanted to be sure of what I was dealing with, so sometime in the months before the show, I went with my tape measure and took exact measurements of the space.
This hallway is divided into several sections, not just one long length. It is a good thing I did measure because it gives me the opportunity to group similar paintings into sections.
For example, the sections divide as follows (due to doorways and corners):
So there are small, medium, and large sections, and then one very long wall!
Because this is a hospital, I want to limit my time spent there. I did determine that about 60 paintings can fit there. Knowing where I want to hang everything will save a lot of time.
Make a list of paintings you have available
I keep a list of all my paintings and add to it as I complete one (or soon thereafter)
I also keep track of where I have already shown each piece and sales, as well. Since this is a large exhibit, I allowed myself to re-show some paintings, especially since the last time I had them at the Misericordia was during the Covid lockdown. It's unlikely that many people will remember them.
Plan your layout
Since I have quite a good working knowledge of Microsoft Excel, I used this program to plan my layout. I created a grid and counted each square as 5 inches.
Background colors represented the length of the wall. I created a colored text box for each painting using approx size according to the grid. The text boxes could then be moved around the page depending on where I wanted the painting.
This, of course, took a lot of time, but I used copy paste for similar sizes and just replaced the text itself and adjusted the box size.
You can see a few small outlines with boxes inside. Those are 12 x 12 inch light weight grids that I will attach some smaller paintings to (and then hang the grid). That will add a bit of weight and stability to the paintings, which are 8x8 or 10x10. I used the same system to hang some 5x5 paintings. I just put 4 on one grid instead of just 1 painting.
Test your layout theory
I have a Stas hanging system on my basement wall, so I can hang paintings to check spacing and visual appeal. I took a few of my Misericordia wall layouts and hung the paintings. I did end up moving a few around. Actually, quite a few. Once they are hanging you can really see how things go together. I would rather spend the time doing this at home, than running up and down the hospital corridor testing what looks best, where.
This was a test of paintings I planned for a 12 foot wall section. The spacing seems okay. You don't want everything crammed together and also not too much space in between. A mixture of sizes can work as well.
This wall is for my less conventional work, including mixed media and abstract.
Finalize the layout and print labels
Once I was happy with the layout, I printed it out to take with me to the Misericordia for reference. That completed a big job, but I still needed labels for all those paintings.
For the labels, I was going to print them on business cards, but in the end, I printed on plain paper using the business card format. I just cut the paper with a paper cutter. Paper is less costly than business cards. Also, if I want to change something, or make a mistake, I can just print on paper, rather than using a whole sheet of business cards.
The paintings were on a spreadsheet and I used mail merge in Microsoft Word to get the labels made. I included Title, Price, Size, Medium and also on many, I included a note about the painting itself. Of course I added my name, as well.
A little background or story about the painting can sometimes connect a person to that painting. Maybe it spurs a sale, which is a great thing!
Have your paperwork in order
I received an email that included a contract and site access agreement. Those needed to be signed and sent in or brought on the day of hanging. I chose to send ahead of time. The contract also includes providing a bio and list of paintings.
I have the list ready to go and I have several bios on my computer. I just pick one and perhaps make it unique to the exhibit. I always try to include a profile picture. (I hope to blog about writing bios and profiles)
Transporting your work
This is a very important part of hanging an exhibit! How will you get your paintings there?
I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee and it has lots of space in the back when the seats are down. I have confidence that most everything will fit. However, my husband is coming to help me hang and so if I need more space, I will put some in the cab of his truck.
Protect your artwork!
I have made my own painting protectors, thick fabric sleeves, that the artwork slides in to.
I have spent some time making sure that every painting is protected before I load up the Jeep. Why on earth would I spend so much time creating the artwork, and then not spend time protecting it during transportation?!! (I will try to do a blog about various ways to protect your works)
When I get to the hospital and unwrap my paintings, I want to avoid damaging them. Also, the floor may dirty (hopefully not). So nothing gets bumped or dirtied, I will take something to rest the paintings on the floor before hanging. I got the idea from the Gallery @501 in Sherwood Park. I saw that they used cut up pool noodles and thought it was a fantastic and inexpensive solution!
While showing your work in a large exhibit is rewarding in many ways, it is also a lot of work. Just be methodical about planning and give yourself enough time to get ready. Think twice before saying yes to a large exhibit and then when you do say yes! dive in whole heartedly.